Organizing Army Paperwork

There’s a reason professional papers do not get counted against your weight allowance in a PCS move. I was amazed at the amount of paperwork that we accumulated in a very short time period.

I’ve been asked many times how do you know what you should keep and what you can shred or throw away? The answer is that you really don’t, so keep it all! Some things are obvious such as orders and medical records. But other things may seem disposable. Nothing in the military is disposable. I can guarantee you that as soon as you trash it, you will need it for some reason.

I have the perfect example of this. We had completed our PCS move nearly a year prior when a letter appeared in the mail with an amount that we owed the military for going over the weight limit allowed. It stated that we did not have any professional papers, gear or equipment listed on the moving documents, therefore we were over limit. The bill was nearly $500.

I can’t tell you how many times I looked at all of the paperwork from the move and thought about throwing it away. Particularly now that he had been medically retired, I really didn’t see the need in keeping it. But the advice of another military wife kept creeping into my thoughts saying ‘don’t throw anything away if it has to do with the military.’

Lucky for us, I still had all of that paperwork, including where we indicated that we had professional gear on the transportation office inventory and where the movers had notated it on our inventory forms. We faxed that information to the appropriate office and our bill was negated. If I had not had that paperwork, we would have had no way to prove that we did not owe that money.

For important papers such as orders or DD214, be sure that you have multiple copies. My husband goes a bit overboard with this but we should never run out of copies – ever.

Some have elaborate filing systems with all of the paperwork systematically filed. I would like to be able to say that I’m one of those wives but I’m not. It’s all in plastic Rubbermaid bins so it can be out of sight until it is needed. It may take me a little longer to find it should the need arise but I know its there – somewhere – and that’s all that matters to me.

When in doubt – keep it!

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Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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